The initial incident took place earlier this month when the Chinese authorities found residue of banned feed additive ractopamine in a batch of pork being exported to China from Canada.
According to a Chinese Embassy in Canada statement on the situation, the number of counterfeit certificates found has grown significantly, leading the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to stop issuing export certificates to China for all pork and beef products.
It said: “Recently, the Chinese Customs authorities have inspected ractopamine residues in a batch of pork products exported from Canada to China. Therefore, the Chinese side has immediately suspended the import of pork products from the relevant enterprises and required the Canadian side to carry out investigation. The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188. The Canadian side believes that this incident is criminal offence.
“These forged certificates were sent to the Chinese regulatory authorities through Canadian official certificate notification channel, which reflects that obvious safety loopholes exist in the Canadian meat export supervision system. In order to protect the safety of Chinese consumers, China has taken urgent preventative measures and requested the Canadian Government to suspend the issuance of certificates for meat exported to China since 25 June.”
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been called in to investigate the fraudulent health certificate.
The Canadian Meat Council questioned why beef was included in the suspension. “At this time, it is unclear why beef products have also been suspended as the falsified certificate was for a pork product. The Canadian Government is seeking clarification from Chinese officials.
“Meat processors, along with the entire meat and livestock industry, are extremely concerned as this will have a significant business impact on our sector and will create huge financial loss for our industry.”
The Canadian Pork Council urged the swift resolution of the situation. “This halt in Canadian exports is not the result of a food safety concern, but the misuse of Canada’s reputation as a supplier of safe quality products.
“China is a very important market for Canadian producers. In 2018, Canada’s pork exports were valued at almost $4bn, of which $514m was exported to China, our third-largest export market. Sales in 2019 have increased by 50% over 2018 levels and this increased demand was reflected in higher prices for live hogs.
“The Canadian Pork Council, Canadian Meat Council and Canada Pork International, are working closely with government officials to better understand the situation and identify potential next steps. We are aware that Canadian Government officials have been in contact with their Chinese counterparts and are hopeful this will lead to a quick resolution.”